Review of Far Away. Part I: Unboxing, Solo Rules, and First Impressions

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Far Away: A Cooperative 2-Player Game

Far Away is a cooperative 2-player game that was on Kickstarter back from November 2018.  It promised delivery in October 2019, and it just delivered a few days ago to me March 14th, 2020.   It is a space-themed game, with a Star Trek Federation “tip of the hat”.  But, the Federation is much more … brutally profit minded in this game.

First Day!

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Back of the Box

So, when I first got this box, I was excited!  I set aside some time to punch it out and play my first game.  After two hours of punching out cardboard, I decided I would wait until the next day to play my first game.  There is a LOT of cardboard to punchout!

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So … much .. cardboard.  The leftover punchout Skeletons …

I normally keep all the punchout skeletons (see here), but there is NO WAY I can keep them in this game (at least, not inside the box).  There is just SO MUCH CARDBOARD!

Hexes make up the world: there are quite a few of them (a lot of them are repeated).

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There are a number of hearts (for representing lonliness) and stomachs (for representing hunger) and a variety of generic tokens (see above).

Without a doubt, most of the cardboard taking up the box are the monsters.  There are “about 6” tokens for every monster in the game.  There are a LOT of monsters!  They have thought ahead and given us baggies for the monsters … a baggie for every six monsters!

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So, it’s very cool that they have a plastic baggie for every type of Creature, it is OVERWHELMING.  The game barely fits together when you put everything back in the box.

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So many plastic baggies for the creatures!

If you are exhausted just looking at the pictures, imagine having to punch it all out!

Art and Graphic Design

The art in this game feels like a throw back to a different time.  For some reason, this game “feels” like Nemo’s War and games from a bygone era.

The art is definitely not super hi quality art … it feels like “dated” art.  But you know what?  It works in this game.  This game feels like it’s a “kit” for exploring space back in the 70s.  What little art in the game is mostly on the monster tokens and the hexes.

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Most of the art is either on the Creatures or Hexes

EVERYTHING ELSE in the game is written with a “dated” typewriter type font, with a few colors here and there.

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The game has completely embraced the dated theme, and, you know what?  It works for it.  This game will not win any awards for best art or graphic design, but it’s very functional and it works for this game.

The Rulebook

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The Rulebook is decent.  But it’s long, because this is a fairly complicated game.  The rulebook is over 28 pages, and describes a lot of rules, particularly for describing the monsters’ behaviours in the game.  Be aware that it will take some time to get through the rulebook.

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The game does talk about the components, but this game shows no pictures.  It only sorta describes the components. This was kind of frustrating (“Why are there 24 + 16 Anomaly cards?  What does the +16 mean?”), but I was able to sort of puzzle most everything out.  Usually, the +XXX meant that there were extra cards of that type for a particular mission.

Set-Up

The Set-up doesn’t show a picture of how the game looks, but it does show abstract representations of how the game should look. There are plusses and minuses to this method (Plus: easier to describe the cards and show more info, Minus: You can’t see what everything should look like EXACTLY on the table).  It worked ok.

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The first set-up!

I would have loved a picture (like the one above) showing set-up of my first game, but now that I have done it, it’s not too hard.

Tone

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So, this game has a sense of humor.  You can first see that when you open the box!  (See above!)

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Wrong Side! Humor!

All through out the game, there are little funny puns, dry humor, and little digs here and there.  This dry sense of humor accents the old dated feel, and again makes the game a little more.  The Rulebook was a little hard to get through, but the little touches of humor (nothing distracting) helped make it a little bit easier to read.

Only Two-Player Rules?

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This game has only rules for TWO PLAYERS.  That’s it.  This is a 2-Player game.

Normally, I would rant a little here (“Why can’t you have solo rules?  Please follow Saunders’ Law!“), but I will step back for a second before I present some solo rules.

The is 2-Player and doesn’t allow communication unless both players are on the same space.  Period.   I believe you are allowed to see what the other player is doing, but you are not allowed any communication (“No head scratching, no poignant coughs”) until both players are on the same hex space.  Thematically,  you have to be together to talk (and some silly thematic explanation like “The Corporation can’t afford comms, sorry!”).

Mechanically, the game MAKES you come together every so often or you get too lonely and die!  Seriously!  At the end of every turn, both players take “One Loneliness”, and if you ever have 5 Loneliness Tokens, you die of Loneliness!!  So, you are forced, by the mechanics of the game,  to get together every few turns.  In the meantime, though, YOU CAN’T TALK!

It’s hard to have solo rules when the game enforces “Loneliness”.

Solo Rules

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Can we even have solo rules?

So, I understand why it’s hard to have solo rules.   How do you turn off your brain and just run each character separately?  Well, you can!  Two simpler example of this are the solo rules for Shipwreck Arcana and Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons!

In the solo rules for both of those games, you have to switch roles and “ignore” the information from a previous rule.  You can do that here as well!

To enforce this, I have a pencil and paper and “write down” what our goals are while both players are together.  When the two players are together, they can talk and broadly strategize.  I physically write down what we say to make it clear what we “know” together!  Once both characters separate, you play each character independently.  Each player is still allowed to see what the other player is doing and act on that  (based on actions what the other player is doing, as you are allowed to “see” what the other player is doing and what resources they have).  But you just can’t have them talk.

It takes some practice to play each character separately, but this can work as a solo mode.  Many times during solo play, you ask yourself “Do I know what the other guy is doing?”  If not, then you have to move forward using only the information you have (written down) or can see (from the actions/resources) of the other player.

First Game

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All Set-Up to Play!

My first game was a solo game using Mission 0 from the Mission book.  (Oh! Did I forget to mention that this game has Missions that changes up the game?  Sorry!)   Mission 0 has you build 3 Scout Towers.  In doing so, you get to do something simple while still exploring, gather resources, exploring, fighting, and doing the majority of things you do in a main game!

You’ll notice in the picture above that I have the Rulebook open.  You will have your nose in this rulebook THE ENTIRE TIME.  There are just so many rules.

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Game Summary Card (only 1?)

Luckily, the game has a ROUND summary card which really helps the flow of the game. Even though the Rulebook was always open, this little card helped moved the game along.

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My first game took about 1.5 hours, although a lot of that time was resolving rules.  The game itself was probably 30 minutes.  I explored and built hexes.   That part sort of reminded me of me of Robinson Crusoe as you explore the island (or planet in this case).  Each hex you explore has “something” revealed: you role a die to figure that out!

  1. Resource: a cube endemic to that Biome type
  2. Monster: Gulp!
  3. Anomaly:  Something random from the Anomaly deck?
  4. Resource Track: More resources, like a mineral vein

I think the Exploration was my favorite part of the game!

Creatures

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In my first game, I only had one creatures.  I got VERY LUCKY in my exploration die roles.

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Each creature that comes out has SO MANY RULES.  Size, Habitat, Threat Radios, Pack Size, preferred Biome, type, diet, behaviors …  (see above).

Here’s the thing:  the Creatures are sooo complicated, the game says you can have a 3-Player game if the third player runs the monsters!  After playing just one creature, I am not sure I played him correctly!  It was aggressive, but he preferred a particular Biome.  So, when I left his Threat Radius, does it still move?  Maybe back to it’s preferred Biome?  Or does it try to move towards the last time it could detect me?  Both seemed reasonable, but the rules weren’t 100% clear when it came to Creature movement.

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Looking through every bag for the creature I want …

Oh yes, it’s very hard to find the Creature you want, as you have to search linearly through every bag!  I think to get a sharpie, put the name on each bag and put the in alphabetical order so I can find each creature much faster (log time)!  I just haven’t done that yet.

Conclusion

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A Winning game for Mission 0!

Back in the early 80s, I used to go to Wargames West every Friday night.   I played all sorts of different games at the store.  This feels like one of those games I used to play.

I liked this game, it felt like a throwback!  It sorta reminded me of Robinson Crusoe  (from its exploration and building) meets Nemo’s War (from it’s style, presentation and rulebook).  I think you REALLY NEED TO PLAY THIS SOLO before you try to teach it to someone else.  And you absolutely need to punch it out and organize it before you even show anybody this!  There is SO MUCH WORK to punch this out.

It’s going to be hard for me to play this with only 2 people, because it seems like I never have just two players: it’s either solo or 3 (or more).  I CAN see playing it solo and I CAN see playing it 3 players (with the third player running the monsters).  Playing solo (with the solo rules I have) is a bit tough:  it’s too easy to “cheat” and tell yourself what you are doing, but I kind of like that exercise.

Hopefully, you can get a sense of whether this is for you based on my description of the gameplay and art and tone.  At the end of the day, I liked it despite the perceived complexity.

 

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